While a large proportion of both women and men believe greater gender diversity contributes to business success, men still hold at least 80 per cent of the top jobs in Asia as well as the bulk of line manager roles, according to research carried out by recruiting experts Hays.
Hong Kong has the highest number of men occupying the top job at 89 per cent and Malaysia the highest percentage of female leaders at just 24 per cent.
The annual gender diversity research conducted by Hays is based on a survey of women and men working in more than 30 industry sectors across China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia.
“Last year, men held 79 per cent of the top jobs and 67 per cent of line manager roles so there is no real improvement in female representation in leadership roles,” says Lynne Roeder, Managing Director of Hays Singapore.
“However, we have been buoyed by the similarities of views when it comes to recognizing that greater gender diversity delivers positives for business,” she says.
The largest proportion of respondents of both genders:
• believe greater gender diversity contributes to business success,
• support more sharing of family responsibilities to help address equality in the workplace,
• describe access to flexible work options as important to them,
• concede women face barriers to career success due to gender,
• agree their organization has some gender diversity issues to address.
“Tackling gender bias around promotion, recruitment and accommodating life choices such as parenting and elder care requires focus and can be confronting to any organization,” says Roeder.
“However, with an aging population and workforce in Asia, the companies that get this right will ensure they have the largest pool of talent to draw upon as candidates get harder to find and thus, will gain a competitive advantage that is truly worth the commitment in getting this done right.”
By country, all Hong Kong survey respondents say greater gender diversity has a positive impact on business. Japan has the largest proportion of respondents with fewer than six per cent of respondents saying greater gender diversity has no positive business impact. In Singapore less than five per cent of respondents share that view while in China, it was less than three per cent and Malaysia only one per cent.
Company culture is the most useful benefit
Both male and female respondents in China, Malaysia and Singapore view company culture is the most useful benefit of greater gender diversity. In Japan, men and women see the recruitment of the best talent as the key benefit. In Hong Kong both genders agree greater gender diversity boosts a company’s reputation.
“Organizations need to review if the way they identify and promote high-potential employees is skewed towards male success,” says Roeder.
“It is well-known that managers often hire in their own image so given men far outnumber women in line management and senior roles, deliberate intervention is required if companies are to reap the benefits offered by greater gender diversity.
“The best person for the role should get the job but too often, companies struggle to see past their own unconscious bias to identify high quality female talent.”
“We also need to ensure our work cultures enable women of ability to put their hand up for added responsibilities and promotion without being viewed as pushy.”
Women face barriers to career success
The study also shows that more than half of female respondents (51 per cent) and 46 per cent of men concede women face barriers to career success due to their gender. A further 30 per cent of female respondents believe women “very much” encounter barriers to career progression compared. Only 15 per cent of men share this view.
More women than men are dissatisfied with their current level of seniority (22 per cent versus 15 per cent). Twenty-eight per cent of women and 24 per cent of men are not at all confident their manager understands their ambitions.
Twenty-one per cent of women say men have greater access to opportunity than female colleagues of the same ability and 40 per cent say access is only “somewhat” provided.
Surprisingly, more men than women (20 per cent versus 17 per cent) believe their organization “very much” has gender diversity issues to address and 35 per cent of female respondents and 33 per cent of male respondents that their organization has some issues to address.
Approximately 73 per cent of women say flexibility is very important or important to them with men not far behind at 67 per cent.
Overall, half of male respondents can access flexible work options in their current role compared to only 40 per cent of female respondents.
Most respondents in Hong Kong (54 per cent) and Singapore (53 per cent) have access to flexible work options.
In contrast, there were no flexible options available to the majority of respondents in Malaysia (64 per cent), China (51 per cent) and Japan (41 per cent).